Young Indigenous AFL players have had the opportunity to train and learn from the game's elite players.
Bernadette Clarke

9 Apr 2021 - 4:46 PM  UPDATED 9 Apr 2021 - 4:50 PM

The AFL has a long and proud history of First Nations athletes performing at the highest level.

From Nicky Winmar to Adam Goodes and current star, Lance Franklin, the list is long and distinguished.

This week, some of the game's youth rubbed shoulders with their heroes during an Indigenous youth leadership camp as they look to walk in the same footsteps. 

When Larrakia/Wiradjuri teen Brodi Williams was asked how he felt after meeting Lance Franklin, better known as 'Buddy', he was almost speechless.

"It's Buddy!", he told NITV News after a long pause.

"He's one of my heroes it's like... I kind of got star struck the first time I saw him."

Meanwhile, Wiradjuri teen Jaxon Mawson was just as stoked.

"It's excellent Buddy being here, we've had other AFL players come down so it's been pretty good. I've never been able to experience this where I'm from because it's more countryside".

Thirty of the countries most talented First Nations kids aged between 12 and 16 are selected annually from NSW and Victoria.

However, last year the program was put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The young indigenous AFL prodigies aren't only there to improve their footy skills, they're also given the opportunity to learn more about life off the pitch.

Lance Franklin came along to have a run with the boys after an epic game with the Sydney Swans on Thursday night where he kicked the winning goal to beat Essendon 83 to 80, and winning with his 950th goal of his career.

"It's been amazing,  I woke up early and got down here to support these young kids. Obviously I come from a country town too in Perth, you do remember those times those AFL players do come down to your local town," he said.

"I've just come down to lend a hand and have some fun with them. I think the biggest thing for me and these kids is to have fun, I think when you're at that age it's just about getting with your mate, being active and enjoying football."

Gumbaggir teen, Josh Ralph told NITV News he had the opportunity to learn more about culture among other things.

"The value of the camp was respect all week and over the three days we've been trying to evolve as a player not just a player but off the feild we'e been learning about growth and fixed mindsets really just trying to learn more about what lifes like beyond footy," he said.

Diversity Partner at the AFL for NSW/ACT, Mark Leavy has been involved in the program for over five years.

He said he's already seen a massive improvement in all those that have been involved in the initiative, hoping that the teachings will go beyond the pitch.

"For us we want young leaders, we want young boys who will go back to community and share all the wonderful teachings that they've learnt over the three days.

"Sport is a great vehicle for engaging boys across communities especially in some of those areas that have face some challenges, Kempsey being one. We have some boys experiencing hardship which is a fantastic experience."

Mr Leavy described the talent in the mix "exceptional" .

"Year on year with my engagement through our programmes I've noticed especially in NSW the skills have gotten better and better and better, their knowledge has improved as well - their decision-making."

Next up the boys hope to be picked in the national Indigenous youth team, the Boomerangs.

And maybe one day walk in the footsteps of their heroes by playing in the AFL.

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